Today we celebrate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  We celebrate the men and women who fought for us and lost their lives so we can live a life of freedom in a country that values free will and humanity.

If you're anything like me, sometimes you take this sacrifice for granted.  I'm not thinking about it when I'm in the grocery line or playing with my kids outside or eating dinner with my family.  I'm not thinking of this great, big, enormous sacrifice these men and women made for me and my children and everyone else living in this country.

That's why we have a day to remember, a day to truly let it sink in how these strangers give me this life I live everyday.  I am not from a military background and do not know many soldiers that have given their life for our country.  

However, a few great men that I was in high school with gave their lives and I remember them today.  

Their names are:

Joseph J. Hamski
Age 28

Jonathan E. Schiller
Age 20

These soldiers died too young and today I think of them and pray for their family and friends who mourn them each and everyday, not just on Memorial Day.  

I can't imagine the magnitude of the sacrifice Joseph and Jonathan's families have endured.  It is beyond words.

I am grateful for these men and all the other men and women that give their life so I can go to the grocery store, play with my children, and have dinner with my family.  My heart yearns to tell each and every one of them and their families 'thank you'.  

Thank you, Joseph.

Thank you, Jonathan.


Summer is Near

The peonies are blooming my friends!  They make me smile and give me a sense of excitement and hope for summer.  When the peonies start to bloom, it means that summer is getting near, it's just around the corner.  In our family summer means swimming at the Quarry, lots of grilling, patio dinners at La Buvette, long nights roaming around the farm, star gazing, and dirty floors.  Are anyone else's floors filthy in the summertime?  I just can't keep up with the grass and dirt and little treasures.  It's so worth it.

Saying I have been giddy about dressing Lily in the summertime is an understatement.  I love keeping things light and simple and that is pretty much mandatory in Iowa in the summertime.  I have picked up these pieces randomly over the past few months and I can't wait for the opportunity for Lily to wear them.

If you follow me on Instagram, you have surely seen this mint braided headband on Lily.  I picked it up from Belle and the Bear at the Baby Bazaar in Omaha and I just love the color.  It compliments Lily's hair so beautifully and works so well with many of her outfits because it's a.) not pink and b.) it's different enough to go with much of her wardrobe.  It is the softest leather and so comfy on her head.

I went on a kimono kick about six months ago and I can't get enough of them. This Haberdash Soul Company kimono is light and airy and Lily wore it on vacation this past winter almost everyday.  It still fits, as she is a petite little thing and she will be wearing it out this summer.

Oma + Jo is a sweet little shop based out of Alaska that has the cutest bonnets as well as other baby and toddler apparel.  I picked up this bonnet when they were having an Instagram sale.  That is a perk for following small shops on Instagram...they always have fun sales for their followers.  I love LOVE this bonnet on Lily.

So, after Lily was wearing the mint headband practically everyday from Belle and the Bear, I had to get the sweet mint mary janes to match.  Guys, this is the softest leather I have ever felt and I wish I could find a pair for myself. She will sporting these to church a lot this summer.

Last, peonies go with everything.  Lily is a flower girl like her Momma and wants to pick flowers every time and anytime we are outside.  She loves smelling them and it's quite comical to watch her toddle around the yard smelling each and every flower and saying 'mmmm' afterwards.

It's an extra long weekend to celebrate all the men and women that gave their lives for our great country.  I hope you have an extra Sunny Saturday and are able to take time to remember those who gave the greatest sacrifice.

Have a Sunny Saturday, all!


Faith in Us

Nine years ago today, Kevin and I were standing in his parent's backyard, which is now our backyard, saying 'I do' to making a life together.

It's hard to imagine what I was thinking or feeling or if I even knew what I was getting myself into.  I'm pretty sure I had no clue what marriage truly entailed when I was 23 years old.  Who knows anything at 23?  I surely didn't know how to cook or keep any plant alive or find my way around the city.  But, at 23 I thought I had this life thing figured out and knew, without a doubt, I wanted to marry Kevin.

Thinking back to that time, Kevin and I surely had a lot of faith.  Faith is defined as 'complete trust or confidence in something'.  I had definitive trust in Kevin to be the husband I needed him to be.  Kevin had great trust in me to be the wife he needed me to be.  We both had faith in God to carry us through the good times and the hard times.

Those first few years of marriage were tough and could rival the difficulties of the first year of being brand new parents.  Kevin and I had to figure how to live together, how to do our finances together, how to make decisions together. There were definitely some moments of harsh words and hurt feelings and 'is this really going to work?'

But, we didn't give up.

We had faith in each other and got through those first hard years and found our groove.  We figured out how to love each other selflessly and what each of us needed in our relationship.  Our dreams grew together and we found our way to two kids and a life in the very spot we said 'I do'.  

Now, just because we are over the 'hump', everything is not picture perfect and we don't always agree or are on the same page.  But, it's different now.  We love each other through things and work hard to overcome whatever is standing between one another.  The disagreements are not as intense and we know neither of us is going anywhere. 

Life is messy and there will be times and seasons where we have to try and find each other again, get back to where we need to be.  And we will, because I have faith in us.  

Although Kevin and I worked hard on our marriage, really hard, the only person that can receive credit for us still being married nine years later is our Heavenly Father.  He got us through the rough spots and brought us closer to Him and closer to each other.  He kept us in the game when we wanted out and gave us self control to overcome our own shortcomings.  He was with us on that day nine years ago and He is with us today. 

Our faith in each other and God has gotten us to this day, nine years after committing to be together always.  I am thankful for Kevin and the husband he is to me and the father he is to our children.  God has surely given me the man of my dreams in this life.  He models Christ-like faith and forgiveness and understanding and makes me want to be a better person.  He gives to me without hesitation or reservation and loves me so so well.  

I want to remember that 23 year old baby that married the man she loved and the faith she had then about this life.  I think I can learn a thing or two from her.  That was a good day, our wedding day, but we have had so many momentous moments and days and nights in that same backyard since then.  And I know in my heart of hearts the best is yet to be...


Being Intentional in the Summertime

Is it me or do things speed up when the weather gets nice?  It's like everyone comes rushing out of their houses at the first sign of spring and want to do all the things everyday, me included.  We finally receive the long anticipated prize for making it through the long, dark days of winter...the hibernation is over and we can stop sleeping and wake up to all the things to do and play and work on.

That is what last week was like.  I wanted to have a playdate with everyone, do a million outside projects, and throw in a date with my hubby in between some past due appointments.  Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely NOT complaining.  I am just adjusting to the change of pace that spring and summer bring to the world and my household.

When I think of how the world changes and adjusts in the springtime, it makes me really want to step back, reflect and be intentional about how and what I spend my time on from day to day.  It's so easy for me to get caught up and excited about doing fun things that I sometimes overextend myself and my family.

As a recovering people pleaser, I want to say 'yes' to all my friends and all the fun playdates and get-togethers. As a type A personality I want to have a weed-free yard and garden.  (Is there such a thing? This one isn't realistic.) As a stay a home mom, I want to have adult interaction often.  #andstarbucks

But, I also want time to breathe and time to grow and build up my family.  I want time to just sit and enjoy the beautiful weather and days God creates.  I want to play with my kids in the backyard and have slow mornings and nights at home together.  I want to invest in my husband and our relationship.  I want to read books outside and learn and grow as a woman, friend, wife, and mom.  I want to take discipling my kids seriously and learn more about how to do this in a way that honors God (not to be confused with disciplining, although I need to do that, too).

So, even though I want to say 'yes' to everything (and I do), I have to step back and be intentional about what I say 'yes' to and determine if it aligns with all the things I want for my family and for myself.  Families are where vital relationships are established and I want to keep my relationships with my tribe real and honest and at the top of my list of priorities.

As I look forward to the summer and all the fun, exciting events, get-togethers, vacations, and random playdates to the park or zoo or museum (that are always the best), I want to make sure I reserve times for our family to 'just be' together and embrace the rhythm of everyday life as a family of four in the summertime.

My type A personality is going to show it's face now.  Here are some ways I plan on being intentional this summer with my family.

1.  Put 'family time' on the calendar.

If there is an empty space on our calendar, I tend to seek out something to fill it.  That equates to lots and lots of unintentional 'yeses'.  I am going to mark and reserve in my planner (with a Sharpie) some time to stay home and be together as a family.  Since it is in Sharpie, I will absolutely not cross it out and if something comes up, we already have something 'scheduled'.  This will keep me accountable for having some uninterrupted time together as a family.

2.  Read everyday.

Reading refills my tank and is a way I embrace rest.  I have so many books on my reading list right now and I honestly want to read them all right now.  My goal is to find time everyday to read.  In the summertime on the farm, there are definitely more 'to-do's', but I am planning on giving myself grace and letting the garden not be as weed-free as I wish it would be so I can recharge and refill my tank.

3.  Plan date nights.

My hubby and I rock at date nights.  We both love having some alone time together, so it is a priority for both of us.  Since it's summertime, there are so many fun things to do and I plan on taking advantage of the nice weather and doing some 'out of the box' dates while the weather allows. 

4.  Enjoy and appreciate our surroundings.

Our dream came true when we moved to the country.  We love where we live and love that we get to raise our kids here.  The one thing we didn't think about when we moved to the farm was all the work that comes with living here.  In the past, a lot of our time spent outside was outside working.  And, when we play outside with our kids it's almost inevitable that one of us will start pulling weeds or work on a project or do something work related.  That's not a bad thing, but I want to try and enjoy where we live more and take time to sit outside with a good book and a cup of coffee every now and then and actually spend an entire night just playing and exploring on the farm.

5.  Read and listen to things that matter.

Fiction is my friend.  I love a good fiction novel like the next girl...especially in the summertime.  As much as I love these fun reads, I want to find a few good reads or podcasts that encourage and teach me as a mom, wife, and believer.  I already listen to a few that are encouraging...check out Jamie Ivey if you're looking for an awesome mommy podcast...but I want to find a few more that touch on discipling my kids and loving my husband.  If anyone has some great books or podcasts...send them my way!

Maybe I will give you an update on how this went at the end of the summer and maybe I will forget.  But, I do know that last night I went on an epic adventure with my littles and this weekend Kevin and I are heading for a few nights away as a couple.  I'm off to a good start, don't you think?

How will you be intentional this summer?


Bringing Beauty Inside

Our iris are in full bloom around the farm; blooms of purple, yellow, pink, burgundy, and white litter our flower beds and make this place come to life. In just a few short days our peonies will start to open up and will put all the other flowers to shame.  They have this flower thing figured out with their beautiful color and shape right down to their intense, sweet fragrance. I don't like to be bias, but peonies have my heart and will be sitting on my countertop as soon as they start to show their pretty faces.

The beauty that saturates the outside world during spring inspires me to replicate that world inside my home.  Here are some things that made my home just a little sunnier this week.

Listening to the Jamie Ivey podcast is something I look forward to each Wednesday and Friday.  Jamie is funny, real, has amazing guests, and best of all, is encouraging to women of all walks of life.  On one of her shows she mentioned The Sparrow Studio and I found this Beauty from Ashes pillow cover that is absolutely gorgeous.  The Sparrow Studio is an awesome, life giving shop that serves moms in multiple countries, but primarily in Rwanda.  I could go on and on about how great this shop is, but you should definitely check it out for yourself at http://www.thesparrowstudio.com.

Do you know Melissa Michaels from The Inspired Room blog?  She has a beautiful home blog that I have been following for awhile now.  She has a few books out and I just ordered and received The Inspired Room: Simple Ideas to Love the Home You Have.  This book has beautiful pictures and it's perfect as a coffee table book, but I am literally going to read it cover to cover.  And, let's be honest, my coffee table is not a 'coffee table book' kind of table.  Right now it holds the three books I'm reading, two Kevin's reading and a few miscellaneous books we read to Luke and Lily last night.  Kevin and I's books sit on a tray that gets moved to a higher location if necessary when my littles are around.  Someday, I will display this beauty without thoughts of it getting pages torn out or milk spills splattered across the cover.    

Fresh herbs are one thing I try and for sure plant in the spring time.  Having them on hand to cook and grill with just makes everything taste better.  Kevin is a big fan of thyme, so that is one of the first things I planted after I killed our cilantro plant, as well as a few succulents.  So far so good on keeping this plant alive, but it's only a week old in my house. I found this yummy looking salmon recipe that incorporates fresh thyme that will be a perfect meal for this weekend.  

How beautiful is this card?  I received it in the mail this week from a good friend and as soon as I opened it I was in love and on Etsy ordering some. Allie Kushnir is based out of Chicago and uses her watercolor paintings to create cards, pillows, purses, and, of course, art!  Check her shop out right now, everything is incredible!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I find this to be true with weeds and flowers especially.  These beauties are chive plants and double as cut flowers when they're blooming.  We have an abundance of chives at the moment, so I have started cutting them and placing them in vases either alone or with a few hosta leaves.  And, if I need some for cooking, I just walk on over to the entryway where they are looking pretty and pluck one out.

This weekend is supposed to be sunny and 70, so I am hoping our peonies will peek out and make it just a bit sunnier.  

Hope you all have a Sunny Saturday!


Sandy Toes and Dirty Fingernails

The weather the past few days has been nothing short of absolutely beautiful. It's almost like we somehow got transplanted to perfect-weather-San Diego, but instead of an ocean to gaze at we have tractors and corn fields.

We have been outside nonstop, my kids' bottoms have been glued to a swing for the past 48 hours and they still don't want to get off.  What is it about swings anyway?  Lily could literally swing all day long and still say 'no' when I ask her if she wants to get off.  Luke is now using the 'big kid swing' and is constantly asking me for a 'superman' which basically means I push him really high. 

When we weren't swinging this week we were spending some lovely mornings with friends squishing sand between our toes and digging up dirt between our fingernails.  Lily got her head caught in a soccer net and stepped in goose poop while Luke rode his bike cautiously along trails and ran barefoot down cement paths.  

The smiles and dirty faces of spring time make me happy and breathe life into my sometimes weary body.  It's hard not to smile and join in the fun when giggles are exploding from my littles' bellies or when their eyes reveal confidence as they tackle something new on the playground.  Being outside is good for my soul and good for producing long afternoon naps for my adventurous toddlers.

Hope you have a weekend filled with lots of swinging and time outside.  Have a blessed weekend, all!


Overcoming Guilt about Me Time

If you are a mom, you know the feeling of being overwhelmed, tired, and dirty. Yes, dirty.  If you have a little under the age of three, check your shoulder right now.  You have food on you.  #yourewelcome

But really, there are moments in my day when I am overwhelmed with the feeling of exhaustion and the promise of relief doesn't seem like a reality.  I just want to sit down, put my feet up, and take a few minutes to get all the wires in my brain straight.  After about a minute or two, I see the crumbs from the banana bread we had earlier in the week hiding in the corner and three toy cars tucked under our ottoman and then, oh yes, my sweet Lily comes toddling over with her favorite Little Blue Truck book to read.  I scoop her up in my arms and read the rhyming words that I know by heart for the thirteenth time today. This is my life and I love it.  I do.  But, to live this life I love in the fullest way possible, I have realized that I need time for me...to replenish my spirits and refill my tank.

A few weeks back I did just that.  Kevin was out of town for a few days, so I scheduled an appointment and penciled in a few extra hours for me.  Thankfully, I have an incredible babysitter that my two kids adore and is able to come over during the day.  I had four glorious hours all to myself.  Four hours.  Guys, this is like a vacation.  When deciding what I was going to do with my time, I promised myself I wouldn't run errands the whole time, like usual.  I would save at least an hour to do something I truly enjoyed that would refill my tank.

After my appointment, I was tempted to go straight to the store, but I didn't give in and, instead, went to my favorite restaurant and had lunch alone.  Who does that?  Not many people apparently, because I was the only person in the restaurant eating sans anyone, but I honestly didn't care one bit.  It was the quietest my mind and heart have been in a long, long while.  I could hear myself think.  I sat and read for awhile and then just took in my surroundings. It's amazing the things I notice when I'm not tending to a toddler and having a meal to myself.  Like the jazz music playing in the background, the girl who brought up fresh bread who had a bulldog tattoo on her arm with the name 'Caesar' underneath it, or the older gentleman wearing a fedora cap that came in with a Wall Street Journal, but checked Facebook instead.  Taking the time to take in my surroundings and experience and enjoy my meal was better than the yummy coffee I spoiled myself with for dessert.  It re-energized me and helped me to feel like a woman, not only a mom.

Mommas, when I was having this meal a bit of guilt tried to creep into my heart.  Sound familiar?  It seems to always sneak up on me when I'm doing something for myself.  I have a truly amazing husband and he watches our kids from time to time so I can do something with girlfriends or get a haircut or go to Cooking Club.  He is the best, but it seems like every time I am away, I have a surge of guilt wash over me that squashes some of the joy these getaways bring me.  I despise this feeling and it almost makes me wish I just stayed home.  Isn't that awful?  One time when I mentioned this to my husband, he looked at me like I had just refused a glass of wine at the end of one of those days.  He loves being able to serve me in this way and enjoys the chance to have some alone time with our littles.  He told me that feeling guilty was so incredibly silly of me.  Have I mentioned how much I love my man?  He made me realize that taking time for me is good and okay and necessary.

We all need our tanks refilled so we can fill those around us...especially when we have littles in our care.  

Now, could I have physically done this a year ago?  Probably not.  I had a seven month old I was nursing who wasn't a fan of being left with anyone but Kevin (and sometimes that was iffy).  There are those seasons when getting away for hours just isn't going to happen.  For all you Mommas in a season when you can't get out of the house without a child in tow, I challenge you to find 10 or 15 minutes to do something for you...read a book, paint your nails, take a hot shower, or go to the bathroom alone.  I promise it will not only benefit you, but will also benefit your sweet little family you care for everyday.

That hour at my favorite restaurant was a gift.  I felt more alive, more capable, and much much more excited for my two napping babes to wake up when I got home.  This is exactly what my heart needed and I'm so glad I didn't let the guilt win.

I would love to hear how you refill your tank!


Pretty Kitchen Things

Everyone says the kitchen is the 'heart of the home' and that couldn't be more true for my family. When we moved into our home four and a half years ago, we did a big remodel to make our main living spaces more open and accessible to each other.  This included taking down walls and making our living room, kitchen, and dining room one big space.  We live in my husband's childhood home and I can honestly say that our home works splendidly for us at this point in our lives. Since we spend most of our time in our kitchen/living room/dining room, I love to change it up and keep things fresh and beautiful in this space.  

I am a bit of a simple girl when it comes to decorating (I like clean surfaces and minimal clutter), but I like pretty things as much as the next Fixer Upper binge watcher. Today I want to share with you some of my favorite things I'm loving right now to make my kitchen a little more beautiful.

This Nate Berkus rug from target is spot on.  It goes with my color scheme and the coraly-pink adds a pop of color I needed in our somewhat monochromatic kitchen.  It feels good on my toes and looks pretty by the sink.

If you have been following along for awhile, you know I love Mrs. Meyers products.  This limited edition peony hand soap is just lovely.  My peonies are not quite blooming, yet, but this soap has me super anxious for those pink and white blooms.  

Nebraska friends have you heard of Wax Buffalo?  I found them on Instagram and at the Omaha Baby Bazaar a few weeks back.  We picked up this amazing blood orange scented candle and it is absolute perfection.  Kevin said yes after one sniff.  These are hand poured soy candles and are made in Lincoln, Nebraska. Supporting local-ish shops and entrepreneurs is my favorite.

This spoon is absolutely beautiful.  I wish I could post a link where you can pick one up, but it's one of a kind people.  My super talented sister-in-law, Hillary, gifted this to me for my birthday.  Get this...she wood burned this beauty herself.  She actually made me three and they are tucked nicely into a jar on my counter.  I found something similar at Open Sky you can check out.  

I am a fresh flower lover.  When fresh flowers adorn my counter, I feel happier and the world seems a bit brighter.  It's a small thing, but makes a big difference in my attitude and perspective. These iris are blooming in just about every garden bed around our house right now and I can't help but clip a few each time I'm outside.  I know some gardeners are purists and love viewing flowers from their 'natural habitat' in the ground, but I am a firm believer of spreading around the beauty.  So, any flower you see outside my house, you will probably see inside as well.  A bonus...iris make my home smell like heaven.

I hope it is sunny where you are today and you have a fun weekend planned with the ones you love.  

Have a Sunny Saturday all!


Spring is here!

It's official, spring is here on the Trail.  We have had rain, big thunderstorms, and some beautiful, unexpected sunshine sprinkled in this week. Our iris are just starting to bloom and they remind me of God's creativity and ability to make a masterpiece out of nothing but black dirt.  The colors of spring always make me happy and I try and bring as much of it inside as possible or spend as much time outside as possible.  

There were some crazy storms this week and luckily the worst of them missed us. Luke is a tad bit scared of thunder aka 'boomers', as is our precious ridiculous dog, Abel, so it was an interesting week of midnight soothings. Poor Kevin is in charge of both Luke and Abel, so he hasn't had many full nights of sleep this week.  He is surely my better half.

This week we had a lot of 'to dos', but found time for some trips to the library, a picnic, and time with friends.  I even snuck away to Cooking Club, which is one of my absolute favorite days every month.  Today we are heading to Ottumwa to watch my nephew's baseball game.  We have never seen him play and are grateful to have the opportunity to spend some extra time with him and show our kiddos a game they will probably never play unless they really really really really want to.  #summersaresacred  

Hooray for Friday and another spring weekend.  Isn't it just the best time of year?!  Hope you all have a blessed weekend!


Lily is 18 months

It's hard to believe Lily is only 18 months and that she is already 18 months. #allthemommasgetit

This girl is a whirlwind of joy and I just can't get enough of her red-headed self.  It seems like she has 'grown up' the past three months.  At Christmas she was still a baby and then...ta-daaa...it's May and she is a full blown toddler with a mind and little spirit all her own.

Here is what our sweet, rambunctious, giggly not-so-baby girl is up to these days...
  • Lily has picked up some words over the last few months including: hi, momma (said in the sweetest voice you ever heard), daddy, gaga, papa, hot, uh-oh, bye-bye, please, get (she says this to Abel), baby, yes, no.
  • Walking over a crack in the sidewalk might be one of Lily's greatest fears.  It's quite funny.  Sometimes she will get down on all fours to crawl over the crack instead of walking over it.
  • Babies bring Lily such happiness.  She loves seeing babies, rocking babies, dressing babies.  She is one good momma.
  • We have gotten our money's worth on the backyard swing.  The swing is Lily's happy place.
  • Lily is Miss Independent.  She likes things her way and wants to do everything herself.
  • Taking off her diaper is one of Lily's little tricks.  If I don't have some kind of bottoms on her, I will find her diaper in a random place around the house.
  • Lily sleeps with a baby doll and a random 'Franklin Elementary' t-shirt from my teaching days.
  • Lily takes one nap a day from about 1:30-4:30 p.m. and sleeps from 7:30 p.m. - 7:00 a.m. at night.  There have been a few times lately where she cries out and I will go in and soothe her for two or three minutes, but most nights she sleeps straight through.
  • When Daddy leaves for work in the morning, Lily loves to give him kisses through the baby gate at the top of the stairs.  It is the sweetest thing.
  • Some of Lily's favorite foods are smoothies, muffins, quiche and eggs, bananas, cheese sticks, applesauce, blackberries, and veggie straws.
  • Lily's favorite book right now is The Magic Hat by Mem Fox and coming in at a close second is Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth.  She also adores any book with animals.
  • Luke and Lily play together almost all day long.  There are disagreements here and there, but Lily truly adores her big brother.
  • Daddy and Lily love to turn on some music and dance together.  If there is a tune playing, you better believe Lily is heading for Daddy with her arms stretched high, ready to dance.
  • Lily has an attachment to accessories.  She enjoys purses, necklaces, bracelets, headbands...the works.
  • Bellybuttons might be Lily's most favorite thing in the whole world.  She loves her own, but does not discriminate.  Daddy's belly button is great, as well as anyone else's that she can get to by lifting up his or her shirt.   For her, thumb sucking and belly button touching go together like peanut butter and jelly.

The lyrics to the song 'Slow Down' by Nichole Nordeman come to mind when I think of my baby girl...

Slow down 
Won’t you stay here a minute more 
I know you want to walk through the door 
But it’s all too fast 
Let’s make it last a little while 
I pointed to the sky and now you wanna fly 
I am your biggest fan 
I hope you know I am 
But do you think you can somehow 
Slow down

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